Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Liquid Gold

On August 5th my son was born at almost 14 weeks, which was way too soon. Even though I work with birth and pregnancy and postpartum, I forgot that once you have a placenta, no matter when your child is born, your milk will come in.

I was torn up about it coming in and being unable to feed my son with the milk meant for him. So many of my friends gave me ways to help the milk dry up, and one person sent me the trailer for the new documentary Prescription: Milk. I had heard of it, but had never seen it.

Instantly, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I was going to pump the milk meant for my very tiny premature baby and donate it to another child that needed it.

I hadn't had any stimulation before my milk came in a few days after he was born, but even then, I was able to pump 4-5 ounces that first day. I was so incredibly excited!

I only had a single electric Evenflo pump (don't get one if you are planning on pumping for long term, or even just for a month. It is not a comfortable pump and it takes awhile to empty your breast). My incredible friends got together from all over the internet and world and donated enough money for me to get a used hospital grade Ameda Elite double pump, and so many companies sent me products to help my pumping time go smoothly.

I am still in awe of the generosity of people.

Breastmilk has been called so many things, but the one that sticks with me always is "Liquid Gold". And that truly is in my book the best name for it.

Not only does milk contain antibodies, stem cells, fat cells, and so very much more, it is the perfect food for infants and toddlers. The WHO (World Health Organization) says the best thing for children is exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, and to keep breastfeeding for at least two years. I do realize that some women can't breastfeed, and there are so many reasons for this, and that is why pumped and donated milk is so very precious.

In the United States, most Milk Banks can charge up to $12 an ounce for donated breastmilk, and the majority of insurances won't cover it. They are slowly starting to make the process to pay for donated milk bank milk easier, but for a lot of people it is still an uphill battle. A Milk Bank has set rules on donations, such as you have to be in good health, as does your baby, no herbs or caffeine while donating, and you have to donate a minimum number of ounces (most I have seen are 100 ounces, others are 150).

There is another way to donate milk, besides giving it to someone you know personally, and that is through a Milk Share. Instead of going through a milk bank that pasteurizes the milk and charges what most families can't afford, you mainly list on a forum for your state if you have a donation or a need for milk, and someone will send the milk they have stored to you. Most times the recipient pays shipping costs and any storage costs the donor had, but that is mostly all they get paid.

Donating breastmilk the very large majority of time is a volunteer thing. Rarely do people get paid to donate their milk, and daily I am amazed at the stories I hear of women that donate thousands of ounces or an old stash to someone in need.

I am so honored and humbled that I am able to do this for even just one little baby that needs it. Premature infants need this precious milk more than any other thing, and pumping can be so hard for the mother, with the added stress of the NICU and so many other things.

Even if one baby only gets a few ounces of milk from me, what better way to help that child than donate? It could be the deciding factor between a baby that can go home and one that has to stay in the NICU.

Breastmilk is an amazing thing. If you have oversupply, or a stash at home, please consider donating to a family or child in need. Formula is great, but it will always be second best to breastmilk.


Jenn said... [Reply to comment]

What a beautiful gift, Kayce.

deb ... p.s. bohemian said... [Reply to comment]

wonderful. simply wonderful that you found a way to help.

i had no idea that 1. they pasteurize it (this seems so outlandishly WRONG!) and 2. they charge so much and 3. there are milk shares

Momioso said... [Reply to comment]

You are amazing!! What a huge gift you're giving, especially in what must be such a difficult time for you. I'm so sorry for your loss.

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